My hometown and the city I've never seen

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Of late there has been a lot of reminiscing on Patrick's blog of days gone by in Malaysia. Actually, it has been a virtual explosion of nostalgia celebrating culture, as well as the quaint and idiosyncratic. I have pitched in my 2 cents worth along with others.

As fun as this exercise has been I have felt a little left out. I have not lived there in just over 25 years - the last time I visited was 15 years ago. The rapid pace of development that has occurred within that time has been nothing short of astounding... at least that's what I've gathered through friends, pictures and articles. So much so, I'm certain that my hometown is now a strange city to me.

I've been questioning whether the "heart" of the city and country will survive this rapid pace of change. How much compromise will erode or at least alter the basic "soul" of the people in the name of progress? Change is inevitable. For better or worse... it will happen. I'm not knocking change. It is the pace of change that concerns me. If change occurs at a rapid pace... will anything stick? Has this cultural erosion already begun?

Case and point: I was informed lately that the Malaysian government has issued an official "tolerance" policy toward other religions in the country. (Malaysia is officially a Muslim country... with about a 50-60 percent majority.) Sure, there have always been differences. (Most of these "differences" incited by individuals abusing the name of religion to further some political agenda.) But, for the most part the country I grew up in "respected" the differences in beliefs... even celebrated it. The major Muslim, Chinese, Hindu and Christian celebrations are official public holidays.

Perhaps it is just an unfortunate choice of word. (There has always been a collective misunderstanding and confusion between words such as "tradition", "religion" and "culture"... they are often used interchangeably. ) Then again, if there is no confusion, will non-Muslim festivals cease to be public holidays as a result? If it does... it will be the first significant step toward obliterating the heart and soul of my hometown and the country I grew up in..

6 Responses to “My hometown and the city I've never seen”

  1. Blogger KFarmer 

    Those are really beautiful pictures but I can understand your feelings about change. Where I live, houses are popping up everywhere. I like the quiet simple life and the houses represent to me change I could do without. I liked having corn/cotton/peanuts growing across the street. (made for some good midnight runs!:)

  2. Blogger lecram sinun 

    kfarmer - When I first arrived in the US... vineyards and orange groves were only a 5 minute drive away. Now it's a major expedition.

  3. Blogger patrickteoh 

    Hi Lecram. This tolerance thing has been around for a long time. Since the 1969 riots I think. I don't think there is an official policy requiring anyone to be tolerant of anyone else. Not yet anyway:-) From the time when I was little the tone of language has changed from having respect and understanding for my fellow Malaysians to what I am now encouraged to do which is to 'tolerate' them. Methinks this could also be the result of many Malaysian politicians having such poor command of the English language. "Ape ni? Errr.....ya le tolerate la tu. Bagus bagus.....jom pegi minum teh." LOL....sorry lecram i think only trashed will appreciate that. After 25 years you probably don't know what the hell I'm saying:-)

    I don't know if you keep in touch with news from here but 2 Prime Ministers in succession have lamented that Malaysia is a country with 1st world infrastructure but 3rd world mentality. Pretty much describes it.


  4. Blogger lecram sinun 


    No apologies neccessary... I actually got it on the joke and attitude. Strange but for the first 15 years here I actually spoke more Malay than when I was at home - didn't want the Mat Sallehs to know what we were up to.

    If we were to boil down the 69 riots... it was really Harun abusing religion to ignite a racial conflict to further his own political agenda. (Some even hinted that it was a ploy to oust Tunku because he claimed that the old man was giving the Chionese too much.)

    As I recall the "charge" was the Chinese yielded more financial power over the Malays. I also recall that the government propoganda machine soon after pushed the "Muhibbah" policy... which really was designed to create a national "oneness" through mutual respect and understanding. The only reason I know this is because my father worked for Information Services. I was just wondering what happened to that?

    Anyway, I guess these are all old stories and we should really deal with the here and now.

  5. Blogger Sasha 

    hi lecram. have you never gone back to asia? you should! like you said, things are changing rapidly around here (some for good, some maybe not so good) and you might be surprised at the things you see.

    sometime in the future i may be able to make a trip out to malaysia, singapore and thailand. i want to see the rest of our neighboring countries. and hey, it's always nice to see another fellow asian in this "little world"!

  6. Blogger lecram sinun 

    sasha - you should make that trip. Are there special ASEAN member rates? Selamat!

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